Glacier Park: Going-to-the-Sun Road closes early for the winter

At mid-afternoon Tuesday, the Logan Pass parking lot was covered in snow. This view is from one of three webcams at the pass.

After a wild and interrupted summer season, Glacier National Park’s keystone Going-to-the-Sun Road has closed for the winter.

Until the snowpack is cleared next spring or summer, there will be no traveling by car or truck between Avalanche Creek and Jackson Glacier Overlook, park officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The Sun Road typically closes on or before the third Monday in October, with the closure area extending as snowfall claims more of the pavement.

However, recent snows closed the road over Logan Pass and have not let up in the high country, officials said, citing “significant ice and ongoing freezing temperatures.”

Road crews had been able to reopen Many Glacier Road, Chief Mountain Road and a slice of the Sun Road from the foot of St. Mary Lake to Jackson Glacier Overlook, on the park’s east side. But those roads were again closed Tuesday by a new storm. The National Weather Service is forecasting rain, snow and freezing temperatures for the remainder of the week.

Two Medicine Road was closed in September and crews have not been able to clear it between storms.

Current road conditions, including closures, can be found on the park’s Road Status Webpage.

Still on the to-do list for Glacier road crews is the removal of 463 log railing pieces along the Sun Road. Those must be removed before winter truly sets in, or they would be destroyed by winter’s avalanches. The steel backed 8-foot log sections require 12 bolts each to attach to the roadway, and must be removed by hand.

“Failure to remove them could result in significant avalanche damage to the railings or roadway,” the park said in its closure announcement.” The railing removal project typically takes two or three weeks; however, unfavorable conditions including ice coating the bolts and railings can extend that timeframe or make removal impractical.”

The Sun Road was closed for a significant portion of August and September because of the Howe Ridge fire, which burned nearly to the edge of the road and threatened to cross the  pavement.

Portions of the fire area continue to smoke, officials said Tuesday, and are expected to do so into December.

“However, winter weather has allowed the park to lift some fire related closures, including popular trails like Rocky Point Trail, Johns Lake Trail, and the connector trail from Johns Lake to Avalanche Creek,” the park reported. “Other areas remain closed, including North McDonald Road and associated trails, the Inside North Fork Road (not the Outside North Fork Road leading to Polebridge), and the Camas drainage area.”

Current trail status information can be found on the Glacier Park’s Trail Status Webpage.